March 20 (UPI) — David Rockefeller, banker, philanthropist and presidential adviser, died Monday at 101, a statement from a family spokesman said.
Rockefeller achieved fame as a philanthropist, CEO of the Chase Manhattan Bank in a 35-year banking career there and confidant of world leaders. He was considered the world’s oldest billionaire.
He was the last surviving grandson of John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, and his death ends a chapter in the storied Rockefeller dynasty; he and his brothers — David, Laurance, John, Nelson and Winthrop — were heavily involved in politics, government, business, philanthropy and the arts in ways unequaled by other U.S. families.
“The range of David Rockefeller’s business and philanthropic and political connections is perhaps unequaled,” said Ron Chernow, author of a 1998 biography, Bloomberg News reported Monday.
Unlike his brothers, David Rockefeller stayed in the corporate business world but extended his influence to geopolitics, remaking Chase as a global bank and meeting with dozens of presidents, kings and prime ministers. In a 2003 interview, he suggested he knew more world leaders than anyone, with the possible exception of Henry Kissinger. He was criticized for meeting with Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, and for suggesting to President Jimmy Carter that he allow the deposed shah of Iran to visit the United States for medical treatment; the shah’s arrival led to the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran from 1979-81.
He retired from Chase Bank at 65. Now JPMorgan Chase Co., it is the United States’ largest bank by assets. He played a key role in developing the Wall Street financial district and the construction of the World Trade Center in the 1960s and 1970s, in a manner similar to his father’s building of Rockefeller Center in the 1930s.
His philanthropic endeavors include large donations to the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Museum of Modern Art, co-founded in New York City by his mother, medical research school Rockefeller University, founded by his grandfather, and Harvard University, his alma mater. His fortune was estimated in 2012 at $2.7 billion. In his 90s he still traveled more than half the year on behalf of Chase, or groups like the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission.
He married his wife, Margaret, in 1940, who died in 1996. They had six children.
David Rockefeller was the last surviving brother of his generation. Venture capitalist and environmentalist Laurance died in 2004; Nelson, a four-term governor of New York and U.S. vice president under President Gerald Ford, died in 1979; John D. Rockefeller III led the fundraising effort to develop New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and died in a 1978 automobile accident; and Winthrop, who died in 1973, was the former governor of Arkansas. A sister, Abby Rockefeller Mauze, died in 1976.